Govt sets up cell for Iran’s Chabahar Port
India has shown interest in the development of Iran’s Chabahar port, a move seen as an attempt to bypass Pakistan and give India a sea-land access route into Afghanistan through Iran’s eastern borders. Last week, the Union cabinet decided to set up a SPV
The Union Government has set up a cell to speed work and monitor the setting up of the Chabahar port in Iran within a deadline.
The Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) has nominated four officers for coordinating the work.
The Union cabinet has recently decided to set up a special purpose vehicle (SPV), with equity participation from Kandla Port Trust (KPT) and JNPT. After setting up the cell, a consultant would be appointed to prepare the memorandum of association, equity structure and the details of the SPV. The two ports would sign a contract with Iran's Port and Maritime Organisation for undertaking the project. Located on the confluence of the Indian Ocean and the Sea of Oman in southeastern Iran, Chabahar is India's first foreign port project. While the port is outside the Persian Gulf, it's strategically significant, providing access to Afghanistan, Central Asia and beyond. Originally floated by the government led by Atal Behari Vajpayee in 2003, the project has been delayed considerably. Despite issues of viability, India wants to take up the Chabahar port as a strategic project, aimed at satisfying the immediate security interests of establishing a sea-land route into Afghanistan.
Ministry officials said with China's influence in infrastructure development growing in the neighbourhood, there has been a systemic push for initiating India's long-overdue involvement as well. China Harbour Engineering Company (CHECL) had displayed an interest in developing the Chabahar port.
Pakistan's Gwadar Port, around 70 km east of Chabahar - was developed by the CHECL with the Port of Singapore Authority being the minority partner. While Gwadar port is available for use, its reliability as a point of export for India has been inconsistent at best. With both the port's provenance and importance in mind, the NDA government has been proactively pursuing the finalisation of the project. With the Cabinet clearing the plan to invest $86 million in the Chabahar project, the ministry of shipping is aiming to begin port development in five months.